Congregation B’nai Israel’s (CBI) Gendler Grapevine Project initiative centers on the development of a full calendar of Earth-based rituals, classes, and festivals that will position their on-site community farm (Abundance Farm) in new ways and will change the way that their congregation thinks, teaches, and prays by reestablishing the central place of the natural world within their communal Jewish life.
On October 4, 2015, CBI held their Hakhel Harvest Festival, which followed a series of community events planned throughout the high holiday season (see the flyer below for a full list of their activities). For nearly six months a group of interfaith clergy, lay leaders, and social justice activists worked together around the banner of “Harvesting Hope,” and organized a series of events, actions, and celebrations. Inspired by the Biblical call to “Hakhel,” (Assemble!) they connected people within their community around issues of land and agriculture, Earth stewardship, food justice, debt, and restful time.
The Harvesting Hope initiative culminated in an incredible festival on Hoshanah Rabbah. They had nearly 600 attendees, a truly astounding number for their area. Approximately 30% of those in attendance had never visited CBI’s Abundance Farm before. In keeping with the spirit of their broader initiative, the Festival itself included a lively mix of interactive educational activities connected to the themes of Sukkot and Harvest (e.g., apple pressing, fire cider making), live music and local food vendors, opportunities for activism in connection to the Syria crisis, and locally proposed fair-tax legislation as well as creative Hoshanah Rabbah ritual.
CBI invited Rabbi Everett and Mary Gendler to attend the Festival. The Gendlers were impressed with the event and were honored to recite CBI’s Hakhel Declaration.
CBI has received tremendous feedback from participants. Click here to watch a video of the festival.